Getting around the Cape can be made easier if you keep some helpful tips in mind. For instance:
- When visiting the Cape, avoid taking your car and opt to bike to nearby beaches to save on parking fees that can go as high as $30.
- The Upper Cape is ideal for a quiet vacation while still experiencing the Cape aesthetic, and the Mid Cape will offer you a traffic-free break.
- Avoid traveling on Saturdays because it’s the turnover day.
- Visit Plymouth Rock to see the landing spot of the Mayflower and if you’re short on time, just visit Wellfleet, Truro, and P-town for a compressed Cape experience.
- Fish for your seafood and visit the National Seashore if you’re big on outdoor activities.
- Head to Mid Cape if you are looking for the best shopping and amusement experience.
Read on for a complete list of advice when planning that summer or winter vacation. Let’s get into it!
1. Visit the Plymouth Rock
It is said that when the Mayflower first landed in the US, it was at the foot of Plymouth Rock. The rock is a 10-ton boulder that can be found on the shore of Plymouth Harbor.
Every year, up to 1 million people visit Plymouth Rock to see a representation of the courage of their ancestors and the hope they brought with them.
Plymouth Rock is one of the biggest attractions of the Cape.
2. You Don’t Need to Visit the Entire Cape
If you’re running short on time, you don’t need to visit the whole Cape.
Some key locations represent the vibe of the entire island–these include the towns of Wellfleet, Truro, and Provincetown.
3. Have Your Own Clambake
Take advantage of the Cape’s abundant seafood by fishing your own. Net your clams, oysters, mussels, and scallops and have a clambake free of cost.
However, make sure you get a fishing license since all Cape Cod towns require one.
Check out this link to find official guidelines for getting one, pricing, etc.
For example, in Wellfleet, the $30 permit allows you to fish any time on Wednesdays and Sundays.
4. Avoid the Weekends
If you avoid planning your trip on the weekend and instead opt for weekdays, you can find lower nightly rates at hotels and smaller crowds.
This also reduces the hassle of traveling since large crowds mean heavier traffic on the two bridges leading to Cape Cod.
5. Fish is Fresher Closer to the Ocean
Rundown seafood shacks near the Ocean will give you the freshest dining experience.
The closer to the Ocean, the newer the fish.
6. Avoid Saturdays
Cape Cod roads are heavily occupied on Saturday mornings and afternoons because that’s the time most people are checking out/checking in.
Also, it’s when most people choose to run errands.
During this time, you want to steer clear of Route 6, which is the only road that winds through the entire Cape. Taking even a left-hand turn on this road can be the most time-consuming during these hours.
7. Get A Permit to Drive an ORV
If you want to drive your ORV on the beaches, you can get a permit to do so.
A week-long permit costs $50. For this small price, you can enjoy that beach adventure you want!
8. Climb a Lighthouse for Spectacular Views
Climbing to the top of any of the fourteen lighthouses lining the Cape provides a breathtaking vantage point and a view like no other.
Watching the shoreline with boats gliding across, the clear skies, and beautiful waves will have you feeling the nostalgia of the Cape’s past.
9. Bring a Light Jacket
Cape Cod summer weathers are cooler than expected, and water temperatures average around 67 degrees during the season.
TIP: always keep a light jacket on hand.
Cape Cod weather also fluctuates quite a bit so that it can get cool pretty fast. It’s always good to stay prepared.
10. Take the Back Roads
Get off the beaten track, take the back roads for more scenic views, and spot the many kettle ponds on the Cape.
11. Go Kayaking
The long stretches of the shoreline at Cape Cod and open waters make it ideal for water sports.
There are different areas with different levels of waves that are suited for everyone. If you kayak at Duck Beach or Great Island, the waves are gentler and more comfortable for beginners.
You also get a stunning view of the sunset to the west of the waters.
If you choose a guided tour, your guide will hand-pick a perfect location for your group’s skill level.
And you’re traveling with kids; you can opt for the tandem kayaks, which allow you all to paddle together.
12. Grab the Ferry from Boston
Grabbing a plane flight to the Cape even in the cheapest month–September–can cost you from $1000-$2000 roundtrip for a family of four.
If you’re traveling on a budget, a much better alternative is to take a boat from Boston, which costs $58 for a one-way trip.
The Bay State Cruise Company and Boston Harbor Cruise sail from Boston to Provincetown.
13. Don’t Drive if you can Bike/Walk
Save up on gas money while on the Cape by choosing to bring your bike or rent one.
If you can walk or bike to the beach, don’t opt for a car. This is because parking fees can go up to $30 and there aren’t many parking spaces to avail.
Additionally, if you’re visiting Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard, leave your car at home. Taking your vehicle on the ferry there is quite expensive, and there is sufficient transport available once you get there.
14. Have a Fancy Meal
If you get tired of all the lobster rolls and clam bakes, prepare yourself for a unique dining experience at a local restaurant.
Most fine-dining restaurant offers a seven-course prix fixe menu with a clear view of chef-plating from the bar.
15. Visit Wellfleet
The town has a drive-in theater that runs double features during the summer. Visit here if you want to revive the nostalgia of your childhood days.
Summertime also hosts the Wellfleet Flea Market with over 200 vendors so that you can shop your heart out!
16. Get a Posh Experience at Chatham
If you want to get a complete Cape experience without seeing any other towns, Chatham is the place to be.
With its high-end fashion boutiques, posh restaurants, signature Cape Cod golf courses, and breathtaking beaches, it’s an accurate representation of what the vibe is like at the Cape.
The Lighthouse Beach is the local public beach here, and during low tide has a calm inlet with sandbars.
The beach doesn’t get too crowded because it lacks amenities, which means you can enjoy some solo time with your partner or family.
You can also have a cute little picnic at Monomoy National Refuge, located next to this beach. Observe the marshlands teeming with wildlife, rare birds, and seals.
The Lower Cape also has wildlife boat tours which, along with looking out for birds and seals, focus on shark spotting in this hub of shark activity.
17. Mid Cape = Less Traffic
If you choose to stay in the Mid Cape area, you’re within walking distance of the beaches and around an hour’s drive from almost every town.
Traffic is also minimal along the roads leading to surrounding towns.
If you’re looking for a lively vacation, you can opt to stay in Hyannis, which has almost 70% of the Cape’s population and promises a lot of the hustle and bustle.
18. Upper Cape for a Quiet Vacation
The Upper Cape offers the Cape Cod experience without the intense tourist crowds. Visit North Falmouth or Woods Hole for a peaceful time.
Old Silver Beach offers warm, calm waters ideal for swimming in for your kiddos. You could also walk across The Knob, which extends into Buzzards Bay and offers the most scenic views.
You can best get a complete survey of the Upper Cape by following the Shining Sea Bikeway that winds through North Falmouth all the way to Woods Hole.
Along the way, spot the beautiful sea, marshes, and sanctuaries overflowing with wildlife and rare birds.
19. Plan your Trip Around your Interests
If you’re big on outdoor activities, you’d want to visit the National Seashore. The place offers a variety of hiking trails winding through the Cape’s picturesque beauty.
Follow a guided program during May-October to spot the trails, marshes, historical attractions, and visitor centers in Salt Pond and Province Lands.
If you’re a bigger fan of shopping and entertainment should opt for the Mid Cape region–the towns of Dennis, Yarmouth, and Barnstable.
If you’re a history geek, visit Nantucket’s antiquated attractions like the Whaling Museum, which houses the unique whale history of the Cape, including artifacts from whaling ships and a skeleton of a giant sperm whale.
20. Catch the Cape Flyer
This train operates from Friday to Sunday only during Memorial Day till Labor Day and runs from Boston’s South Station.
This is a two-and-a-half-hour charge that stops at Braintree, Middleborough, Buzzards Bay, and Hyannis.
The cost of a round-trip from Boston is $40, which is pretty economical. Also, children under the age of 11 ride for free. And if you bring your bike to drive around to nearby beaches, you can save a bit on gas money costs.
Cape Cod Travel Tips Conclusion
When visiting a new place, it’s best to gather as much information about it as you can.
These tips give you a run-down of the most essential things so that you’re prepared when visiting the Cape as a first timer.
If you want a quiet vacation but still want to experience the typical Cape vibe, stick to Upper Cape areas like Falmouth and Woods Hole.
The Old Silver Beach in Falmouth is also ideal for taking your kids since water temperatures are pretty comfortable for most of the year.
Additionally, since the Cape’s weather fluctuates a lot throughout the year, even the summer months can have some cool days. So, it’s best to travel with a lightweight jacket so that you’re always prepared for any weather changes.
To avoid heavy parking fees, walk or bike to the beach whenever you can. Make sure you obtain a fishing license before you decide to net your own catch.
With many other tips like the ones above, you won’t get as many surprises as you would if you didn’t know this stuff.
We hope you put this guide to use on your next trip. Let us know if you have any questions!